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billgatesReuters is making waves tonight with a report that three of Microsoft’s top investors want Bill Gates to step down as chairman — saying that he “effectively blocks the adoption of new strategies and would limit the power of a new chief executive to make substantial changes.”

Microsoft isn’t commenting on the report. The news service cites anonymous sources and doesn’t name the three investors. There’s no indication that Gates would actually step down. But just the existence of this report illustrates how much has changed at Microsoft in recent months.

The story, by reporters Nadia Damouni and Bill Rigby, says the investors want Gates to step down as chairman, specifically. But presuming he would remain a “regular” board member in this scenario, Bill Gates would still be Bill Gates. It’s hard to imagine the Microsoft co-founder and largest individual shareholder not maintaining his significant influence in any board position he might hold.

Despite all the change at Microsoft lately, the changes haven’t created the clean slate that some shareholders might want.

For example, even though Steve Ballmer is stepping down as CEO within 12 months, the company’s executives have said that they’re pushing forward with the massive “One Microsoft” reorganization that Ballmer has put in place to support the company’s new devices and services strategy.

In other words, the assumption is that the new CEO will be working within the framework that Ballmer and his existing executive team have created. That’s one of the issues that frustrates shareholders who want Ballmer’s replacement to be able to take a completely fresh look at the company.

Bottom line, it’s a stretch to think that Gates will step down anytime soon. Then again, everyone would have said that about Ballmer a couple months ago, as well.

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